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    Deep and Merely Tinted Greens

    by Michael Cockram

    As the concept of "green design" enters the mainstream of our building culture, designers are being given a glut of information and misinformation on what constitutes environmentally sound practices. The term "greenwashing" has entered the lexicon to mean giving the appearance of being green without providing substantive environmental benefit.

    In the building business, as with U.S. national policy, it's sometimes difficult to see through the labels to identify substantially improved practices. The waters are easily muddied with contradictory claims from different camps.

    The green building dilemma is mirrored in the similar controversies swirling around in the organic food industry. As mainstream agriculture works to claim a share of the growing organic market share, big producers are pressuring government to modify the definition of "organic" to include more synthetic ingredients.

    Similarly, as the green building movement grows and more mainstream designers, builders, and developers jump on board, there is pressure to simply relabel conventional practices as "green." Design professionals need to ask: what criteria are being used to define "green" building? Who sets and maintains those criteria?

    The hallmark guidelines in commercial building come from the U.S. Green Building Council in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. Since it began, LEED certification has become extremely influential in bringing sustainable practices into the mainstream. It is increasingly adopted as a minimum standard by municipalities and is now required by the federal government for new structures.   >>>

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    According to environmentalists, the "Clear Skies" initiative actually clears the way for more pollution.
    Photo: www.arttoday.com

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    "McMansions," or unnecessarily large, resource-consuming houses, have become popular in the United States.
    Photo: www.arttoday.com

     

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